Graduate Programs

History M.A.

See University master’s degree requirements. Specific departmental requirements are listed below.

A minimum of 48 credits of approved graduate-level courses are required for the M.A. in history. Of these 48 credits students must complete a minimum of 36 credits in history, to include two seminars (Hst 507) and 8 credits of thesis writing (Hst 503). With the approval of their thesis adviser, students can apply to their M.A. program a maximum of 12 credits from graduate courses taken outside of history. Students are normally admitted for the fall term and are strongly advised to complete Hst 500 (Introduction to the Master’s Program in History) in the first term of study. While Hst 500 is strongly recommended for all entering graduate students, it is required for those who have not completed an undergraduate course in historiography (Hst 300 or equivalent).

In addition to coursework, students are required to complete, prior to the thesis, the following qualifying requirements:

  • Passing two written field examinations
  • Fulfilling the University’s and the department's foreign language requirements for the M.A. degree (see below)
  • Successfully submitting a thesis proposal

Students should ordinarily complete these requirements no later than the point at which they have completed 32 credits of graduate study.

Field Exams

The two written examinations are administered by two regular (tenured or tenure-track) members of the department. One field examiner ordinarily serves as the main thesis adviser, and the other examiner also serves on the thesis committee. The two fields must be mutually distinct, and are defined geographically and/or thematically–there may also be a chronological delimitation–by agreement between the student and the respective examiners. Coursework for the M.A. must include minimum of 12 credit hours for the first field and a minimum of 8 credit hours for the second field. Examples of the definition of fields, and guidelines for the examinations, are available from the Department Office.

Foreign Languages

Graduate students should demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language germane to their thesis field no later than the point at which they have completed 32 credits of graduate study. Per university policy, proficiency may be demonstrated by successfully completing language coursework equivalent to PSU’s 203-level course, or by passing an examination administered for this purpose by the Department of World Languages and Literatures. Some fields of research–including, but not limited to, Asian or Middle Eastern history–may require language preparation beyond the formal University requirements. Students interested in these areas are urged to consult their advisers about expectations for study of languages prior to or soon after admission to the program.


The Master of Arts in history culminates in the preparation and defense of a thesis based upon primary source research that follows from a program planned in consultation with the student’s adviser. A thesis proposal is submitted to the two field examiners, one of whom also serves as the thesis adviser. Once it is accepted, a copy of the proposal is filed in the Department Office. Guidelines for the thesis proposal are available from the thesis adviser or the Department Office. Upon completion of the thesis, each student must successfully defend it in an oral examination before a committee comprising the thesis adviser, the other field examiner, a third reader from the History Department, and a member from outside the History Department.


Per university policy, students in the M.A. program who do not have an approved leave of absence and who fail to successfully complete a History graduate course over a one-year period will have their enrollment in the program cancelled. For thesis credit, HST 503, “In Progress” counts as successful completion. To re-enroll, students must 1) have maintained a minimum 3.00 GPA in History graduate classes; 2) have completed without incompletes or withdrawals at least two thirds of their courses; 3) submit a plan for completion of the degree program–including (as appropriate) remaining coursework, field and language exams, and thesis–endorsed by their major adviser.

Public History Track

Students wishing to pursue a career in public history are urged to consider the department’s public history M.A. track. Public history students take field courses, seminars, internships, and laboratory courses that cover a broad range of public history sub-fields, including: archival management, oral history, museology, cultural resource management, site interpretation, publication, and historic preservation. Coursework includes a balance of classroom and practical offerings. Students choosing the public history track as their primary field are required to have a second field defined geographically. In addition to fulfilling all other requirements for a Master of Arts in history, students are also required to complete the following:

1. Required Courses

Hst 596Introduction to Public History


(unless student has successfully completed HST 496 as an undergraduate);

2. a public product

(e.g., exhibit, Web site, public program, audio, or video document) as part of the required master’s thesis;

3. one public history seminar

Hst 509Public History Seminar


4. a minimum of 6 public history internship credits

Hst 504Public History Internship


5. one public history lab course

Hst 511Public History Lab


World History Track

A specialization in world history is available through the department’s world history M.A. track. Students pursuing the world history track fulfill all the requirements for a Master of Arts in History, choosing world history as their primary field. In addition, the world history track requires two regional concentrations as the secondary field. The field requirements for the world history track thus include:

1. 12 credits of Hst 595 Comparative World History

[an appropriate adviser-approved course can replace 4 credits of Hst 595]

2. Two regional concentrations, with a minimum of 8 credits in each (at least 16 credits total)

Regular M.A. students can still choose world history as a secondary field and fulfill this requirement in the standard way by taking 8 credits of Hst 595.